It was a bleak afternoon at Old Trafford as Manchester United were humiliated by bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday. The 5-0 defeat was a result that you sensed was coming, with United having looked defensively weak all season and their inept midfield having repeatedly failed to provide the defensive support that the side desperately needs.
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to be on borrowed time after the defeat which he branded as his darkest day in football, but there are a few different options the club could take right now...
Let Solskjaer continue with what he’s doing
This is the option few United supporters would want to happen, but if the board are as behind the Norwegian as reports suggest then it is likely that he will be given more time. He has stated that he feels he is close to cracking the code to bring success back to the club. Solskjaer is adamant that his style will come good, feeling that his side are just going through a rough patch and being undermined by individual mistakes and players seemingly unaware of their roles.
We have already seen the turnaround Solskjaer has achieved in his time in charge, almost reaching the three-year mark. He has slowly assembled a very capable squad in his time at the club, bringing the Red Devils closer to a position to challenge for titles than they had been for some years before. He has had a real impact prior to this season, and he has shown that he is more than capable of getting United back on track.
Keep Solskjaer but insist he makes changes
United could keep the 48-year-old in charge without sanctioning a continuation of the current status quo. It Is widely accepted that United are not a pressing side because they simply do not have the players to execute such a tactic to the level of Liverpool, Manchester City and even Chelsea. They have only kept one clean sheet in the Premier League all season and there is no confidence in the backline under Solskjaer’s current tactics. Given that his side are severely lacking in quality midfielders who can effectively assist the team equally in defence as well as attack, the former striker’s game plan is always set up to fail.
The best chance United have of giving the defence the support it requires from midfield might be sat on the bench. Outcast Donny van de Beek would offer more composure and defensive awareness than the likes of Fred and Scott McTominay. The board will not be happy with the lack of minutes their big-money signing Jadon Sancho has received this season either given the undoubted quality he possesses, with his stats in the Bundesliga over the last four seasons the proof of how much he can offer United.
United’s key decision-makers, the Glazer family and executive vice-chair Ed Woodward, have sanctioned a lot of money on players to assist the manager but they are not being utilised presently. It is clear that the current plan isn’t working and Solskjaer could be pressured to use the players who have so far not been given much of a chance this season, as those he has relied on instead have continued to fail him. With the current situation on the pitch going terribly, changes must be made to how the Red Devils approach their upcoming matches. For the interim at least, they essentially have to return to basics to ensure that they are hard to beat because the defence desperately needs to regain some confidence. This would provide the squad’s fringe players the perfect opportunity to stake a claim on a regular place in the squad.
The final option would be to part ways with the club legend. There is no denying how poorly his side have been in all competitions this season, being rescued by Cristiano Ronaldo on too many occasions and essentially papering over the cracks with results which belie their performances for the most part. Solskjaer’s stubbornness to persist with his failing system is causing United to regress, and some of the key members of his squad are starting to look broken and disillusioned with the way they are playing.
If the club were to part ways with the Norwegian immediately, the role could always be handed to a Mike Phelan or Michael Carrick on an interim basis. However, if they waited until the international break in a couple of weeks’ time, it would give them the time and space to seek out a long-term manager to build on what Solskjaer has started. Right now, the only manager readily available with the credentials to deliver success would appear to be former Inter Milan and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.
Whoever is next, it would appear that Solskjaer’s days are numbered if things don’t improve quickly. And whichever option United take, something clearly needs to change.